My Mom Dies Suddenly and Tragically…

Rick BassmanMy Mom Dies Suddenly and Tragically.   Causing my Dad to go to work on the road to pay the bills.  Thereby leaving my Brother and I to our own devices.  Thus, the Juvenile Delinquency years ensue. 

(Well –as much as Two Boys growing up as Upper-Middle Class Jews in the Valley

can be Delinquents anyways).

(and oh yeah, i stress out to the max, giving myself three years of “terminal” cancer hell)


I don’t suppose it was necessarily about the money for us.  But more about being creative.  I mean hell, we could afford a few pizzas, from the bottle money, the movie theater money and the concert ticket money, right?  But, why pay for pizza, when you didn’t, uh, have to?

It was probably round about 1977 when Ken and I masterminded the “Great Pizza Trick.”  We used to argue for credit for the originating the scheme, but likely would cede to the other now.  At least Ken would, I’m sure.  We’d start the caper by locating a house in a neighborhood where we knew the residents were out of town, or at least away for the night.  We’d tape a sign to the front door of the house that said, “Construction, please go around back.”  Let’s call this “Delivery House 1.”  Having actually worked at a pizza joint for a couple of months in one of many “real jobs,” I understood the intricate mechanics of the delivery trade.  Thus, we’d select our Target (read: pizza delivery joint) and Delivery House 2, which would be close in proximity to House 1.  It was critical that geographically, Delivery House 1 be closer to the Target.  We’d then find a bank of pay phones.  We’d call the Target from one phone and place a smallish order for Delivery House 1.  We’d be sure to tell the order-taker, “…uh, by the way, there’s construction going on in the foyer, so please have the driver go around the back with our order.”  A moment later, we’d call the Target from a second pay phone, and place our order for Delivery House 2.  This order would be comprised of EVERYTHING WE WANTED TO EAT THAT NIGHT.  We’d then wait for the Target to call back.  The person who placed each call would answer his respective pay phone and confirm the order.  And off we’d go.

Having had about 60 days of real world experience in the trade, I knew that the Target would make what this high-tech industry calls a “double delivery.”  (2 houses in close proximity to one another; 2 calls coming in closely together time-wise).

I suppose the real win in this for us was hiding in the bushes across the street from Delivery House 1, giddy with anticipation.  Hearts-pounding, we’d watch as the driver would exit his car, small pizza –or what-not—in hand, and more often than not walk to the front door.  (Completely ignoring our instructions about going around back.  Dumbass!)  Anyways, he’d get to the door, read the sign we’d posted, and around back he’d go.  The moment he walked into the backyard, we’d spring from our hiding place, sprint to his car –unlocked naturally, in the 70’s in the Valley—pop open the doors, snatch up the pizzas, and run!

We ate pizza a lot in those day.  Including the gut-busting idiocy of a once-a-week-winner-doesn’t-have-to-pay-all-you-can-eat-contest at Shakey’s Bunch-o-Lunch.

But for some reason, the spoils from our Great Pizza Trick always tasted best.

We closed the door on the GPT some months later.  Ken and I returned home one evening to what we thought would be an empty house, to find a few of our friends hanging out waiting for us.  I had just wrapped up my shift at The Northridge Waterslide (another real job) and Ken had probably been somewhere smoking pot.  But if you asked him today, he was probably off  running a Student Council Meeting, or something of the sort.  Anyways, we learned that our buddies had gone ahead and set up the Great Pizza Trick without us.  And we learned that someone, in his infinite wisdom (Kevin!) had called a Target that we had hit just a couple of weeks earlier.  Red Devil, if memory serves.  “Kevin, jeez, we just did Red Devil.  You can’t do ‘em again this soon!”  But the Cold Duck –or Fosters—or Strawberry Hill, was flowing, and liquid courage being the better part of valor, we decided to proceed.

As we hid in the bushes across from Delivery House 1, we watch as the Driver pulls up, hesitates, checks his rear view mirror, and slowly gets out of his car.  We notice a car, driving without headlights, idle up and park about 50 yards down the road.  “This doesn’t feel right.  This doesn’t feel right.”  As we’re saying this, the Driver walks around back, and someone from our crew, in his infinite wisdom (Kevin!), sprints from the bushes toward the Delivery vehicle.  We all follow.  The second Kevin grabs a hold of the car door, all four doors of the car parked down the road fly open, and four guys, swinging nun-chuks, run up the street toward us.  We abandon the mission and flee.  Our get-away-vehicle, aka Kevin’s 1960 something piece of shit van, piloted by Jack, pulls along side of us.  With the side door pulled open, we jump into the moving vehicle.  In 2011, Jack is one of the surest and steadiest hands in the world of periodontal surgery.  In the mid 70’s however, he was given to easy panic.  He guns the van.  Now granted, Kevin was the fastest amongst us, but he started dead last and as Jack pulls away, Kevin is left in the dirt.  We point this out to Jack.  He slams on the brakes and the van stalls dead.  Kevin jumps in.  And now, four would-be-Ninja-avengers have caught up and stand, just beyond the vehicle’s side door,  looking in at us.  There are a lot of us in the van –girls included—and it’s dark in here.  Our would-be assailants can’t really see who or what, they’re facing.  One hauls off and takes a mighty swing with his Chuks.  He misses his target, and the hard wood slams into the metal floor of the van, and snaps his weapon in half.  Jack gets the van started and we speed off into the night, pizza-less.

And thus, The Great Pizza Trick is officially retired.  Boom.

——– btdt ——–


Shortly after I got my Camaro, we got turned on to Rocky Horror Picture Show.  The mention of the car is relevant here.  I was the oldest in our group –which by now we had dubbed “The Big 7”, which was comprised of myself, Ken, Jack, Kevin, Gregg Kaufman and Randy Kruger.  Keith and Eric Sackler would have made that 9, but didn’t go to Granada, and it could be argued that Eric Marino and Petar Katurich too were part of that mix, but alas, they belonged to the rival Pooh “Gang.”  (Yeah, as in Winnie-the-fuckin’-Pooh.  Tough, huh?)   Anyways, I was the only one with wheels.  Did it matter that I didn’t yet have a driver’s license?  Nah.  Why would it?  Hell, I had gotten into my first accident at 13.  We had a “friend,” Jay, that hung around Skateland with us.  Jay was at least 16 or 17, and at 6’6”, must have weighed about 140 pounds.  He was, uh, how would you say this while maintaining a degree of political correctness?  Aw hell, it was 1974; he was half-retarded.  So, he hung out with us young-uns.  And he had a car.  A 1973, lime, green Ford Pinto.  A real piece of crap that made Kevin’s van look like a friggin’ Corniche.  But, he let us drive it.  And boy did we abuse the privilege.  We’d place a log on the seat, so that we could see over the dash, and off we’d go, Jay nervously riding shotgun.  One night, I talked Jay into letting me take my first solo flight, so that I could drive Brooke Sisliano, the 11-year-old-love-of-my-life,  home.  Brooke and I are sitting at an intersection and whack, outta nowhere, a car smashes into us.  Totally not my fault, I swear!  But I’m 13, so I flee the scene.  After dropping Brooke, I go back to the rink, huge dent in the rear drivers’ side panel.  “My car! My car!”  I can still see poor Jay’s face to this day.  Boom.